When you rank the starters in Super Bowl LII, including the nickel players but not including special teams, it's easy to see which of the two teams has more talent.

It isn't the defending Super Bowl champions, either.

It's the Philadelphia Eagles, and it's not close.

But there are two things that compensate for that. One is New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, but the other, and most important, is quarterback Tom Brady.

When I set out to rank the starters in this game from 1-46, it would be easy to put Brady as the top five. That's how valuable he is to the Patriots. He's the main reason they are going for their sixth ring in his eighth Super Bowl appearance. At the age of 40, he isn't slowing down.

It was vintage Brady in the AFC Championship Game, rallying Patriots from down 10 in the fourth quarter to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars. That's why he's the clear No. 1 in my rankings.

There are more Eagles in the top 10, but it evens out in the top half of the list. The premium players on the Eagles are more talented. They have seven of the top 10 players on my list, with the Patriots having the top two in Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski.

But great quarterbacks cure ills, and Brady has done that for a long, long time. There's no reason to believe he's slowing down. Brady will be making his 37th postseason start against the Eagles, the most of all time. He has been the Super Bowl MVP four times, the most of any player ever, and is the favorite to win a fifth.

That's why he's the clear No. 1 on this list -- and it's not close.

Ranking Super Bowl LII starters
1
Tom Brady New England Patriots QB
He turns 41 in August, which makes what he's doing even more amazing. He's the greatest quarterback of all time, and still playing at a high level.
2
Rob Gronkowski New England Patriots TE
He suffered a concussion in the AFC Championship Game, but I expect him to play this week. When he's on the field, he's the best tight end in league history. Yes, ever.
3
Fletcher Cox Philadelphia Eagles DT
He is a major force on the inside of their line. He has wrecked games on his own and needs to be doubled. He can push the pocket inside, which can impact Brady's ability to step up.
4
Brandon Graham Philadelphia Eagles DE
He is the Eagles' best outside rusher and can also slide inside on passing downs. His ability to get up the field in their wide-9 scheme will be big in this game.
5
Zach Ertz Philadelphia Eagles TE
He isn't Gronkowski, but he has had a heck of a season for the Eagles. His ability to get open in zones and beat linebackers and safeties in man coverage is key to their offense.
6
Jason Kelce Philadelphia Eagles C
He isn't overpowering, but he knows how to get by with his smarts and his athletic ability. He is good at getting to the second level and pulling on runs.
7
Vinny Curry Philadelphia Eagles DE
He's the underrated player on their front, a guy who doesn't come close to getting the attention he deserves. He can rush from the edge or move inside.
8
Trey Flowers New England Patriots DE
He's by far the best pass rusher on the Patriots. He can win outside or line up inside and beat the guards.
9
Brandon Brooks Philadelphia Eagles G
He's improved greatly in his second season with the team. He's best in the run game.
10
Lane Johnson Philadelphia Eagles T
He's a good, solid pass protector, but he's also good in the run game. When he's on the field -- and he has missed a few games over the past few years -- the Eagles line is much, much better.
11
Stephon Gilmore New England Patriots CB
He has been outstanding in the second half of the season and the playoffs. He has the ability to match up in man coverage with all the receivers.
12
Malcolm Jenkins Philadelphia Eagles SS
He plays a lot of spots in their defense, including dime linebacker. His ability to cover tight ends, which means Rob Gronkowski, will be big.
13
Joe Thuney New England Patriots G
This second-year player has made big strides after being a so-so rookie starter in 2016.
14
Shaq Mason New England Patriots G
He's good in the run game, but he can struggle at times in pass protection. Marcell Dareus beat him for a sack in the AFC Championship Game.
15
Timmy Jernigan Philadelphia Eagles DT
They got him from Baltimore in a trade, and he has been a big addition up front. Playing next to Fletcher Cox, he sees a lot of single blocks and he wins.
16
Devin McCourty New England Patriots FS
He's the glue of their defense on the back end, but his coverage wasn't as good this season as it was in 2016.
17
David Andrews New England Patriots C
He isn't overpowering, but he's smart, knows how to play the angles and is key to making their line calls. He's also good in the run game.
18
Mychal Kendricks Philadelphia Eagles OLB
He's the best linebacker in this game, with the ability to match up with the New England backs in coverage.
19
Brandin Cooks New England Patriots WR
He brings the speed threat to the offense, even if he hasn't put up the numbers the team expected when they traded to get him from the Saints.
20
Malcolm Butler New England Patriots CB
His play tailed off some this season, but he's still more than capable of being a quality corner.
21
Malcom Brown New England Patriots DT
This third-year player has emerged as a quality down player in their defense. He's at his best in the run game.
22
Alshon Jeffery Philadelphia Eagles WR
He has had a solid season with 57 catches and nine touchdowns, and he gives the Eagles a big target. He doesn't run by people, which could play to the Pats' advantage.
23
Dion Lewis New England Patriots RB
He is such a valuable part of their team. When he has been on the field the past three years, they are 32-3. That's unreal. He can be a real threat in the passing game too.
24
Patrick Chung New England Patriots SS
The Patriots love his ability to play a lot of spots. He plays up near the line in a lot of their defenses as a pseudo linebacker.
25
Patrick Robinson Philadelphia Eagles CB
Signed as a free agent, he has been outstanding in coverage for the Eagles as their nickel corner. He had a pick-six against the Vikings.
26
Jay Ajayi Philadelphia Eagles RB
The Eagles traded with Miami to get him earlier this season, and he has become their primary runner. He gives them more quickness than LeGarrette Blount.
27
Danny Amendola New England Patriots WR
He is a crafty veteran who knows how to find the soft spots in the zone. He is also good on the crossing routes against man.
28
Nate Solder New England Patriots T
He's a solid player, but his play has slipped this season. He is coming off a nice game against Jacksonville.
29
Rodney McLeod Philadelphia Eagles FS
He's an underrated player on their defense. His ability to cover on the back end will be big against Tom Brady.
30
Nick Foles Philadelphia Eagles QB
He has played well in the playoffs, but he struggled in the two games before that. They've done a nice job of scheming things up to make it easy on him.
31
Nelson Agholor Philadelphia Eagles WR
He went from 36 catches in 2016 to 62 in '17. He also had eight touchdown catches, but he hasn't caught one since Week 15, counting playoffs.
32
Lawrence Guy New England Patriots DE
He doesn't offer much in terms of the pass rush, but he's a big part of their run defense.
33
Jalen Mills Philadelphia Eagles CB
Some of his best football has come in the two playoff games, which is big heading into this week. He can be beat with the double move.
34
Duron Harmon New England Patriots SS
He comes on the field a lot in their sub packages, playing the deep safety. He's forced to cover a lot of ground in their nickel and dime looks.
35
Stefen Wisniewski Philadelphia Eagles G
He's a smallish guard who gets by with this toughness. But he can have problems at the point of attack, although he played well in the NFC Championship Game.
36
James Harrison New England Patriots OLB
He can help in spurts, which is the way the Patriots have used him since getting him from the Steelers. But he's not close to the same player he used to be.
37
Ronald Darby Philadelphia Eagles CB
After missing the first part of the season because of injury, he has become a big part of the improvement in the secondary. He's another 2017 acquisition that has paid off in a big way.
38
Cameron Fleming New England Patriots T
He stepped in for the injured LaAdrian Waddle last week and held his own against the Jaguars pass rushers. He's actually a better pass blocker than Waddle, which will be big against the Eagles.
39
Torrey Smith Philadelphia Eagles WR
He has that big-play speed that scares teams. But he has always been inconsistent.
40
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Nigel Bradham Philadelphia Eagles OLB
He's the Eagles' best coverage linebacker, but he can have problems in the run game when teams get linemen on him. He's not big and strong.
41
Halapoulivaati Vaitai Philadelphia Eagles T
He took over at left tackle after Jason Peters got hurt and struggled early. But he has shown marked improvement down the stretch and in the playoffs.
42
Kyle Van Noy New England Patriots OLB
His versatility is a big part of their defense. He can rush the passer if asked to do so, but is also asked to do a lot in coverage. Hasn't had a great year though.
43
Dannell Ellerbe Philadelphia Eagles LB
He took over as a starter late, but missed last week's game with an injury. He is expected back for the Super Bowl. He comes out in sub packages.
44
Elandon Roberts New England Patriots OLB
He can be overmatched at the point of attack in the run game. He doesn't play a lot of snaps, even though he's a starter.
45
Ricky Jean Francois New England Patriots DT
He's proven to be a nice veteran pickup for their front. He's good against the run.
46
James Develin New England Patriots FB
If they are going to run the ball, he will be a big part of the offense. Usually plays about a third of the snaps.